Lasagne x 3.
E. does not like to cook. She is a beloved patron of a bakery near her home which provides her with blue cheese macaroni and cheese and Southwestern-inspired casseroles, and cakes and tortes and tarts dense with chocolate or fluffy with coconut or layered with marzipan or filled with custard and fresh berries. But she does not cook, so once a year she asks me to make her my signature lasagnes, one layered with wild mushrooms and béchamel, another with spicy Italian sausage in tomato sauce and ricotta swirled with fresh basil. (I could make them in my sleep).
The mushroom lasagne is one I regret introducing to a wide audience, because it is a pain in the ass to make. There is just so much chopping. (The first time I made this I had to finely chop two pounds of mushrooms by hand, and by the time I was done I was ready to kill myself. The second time I made this I borrowed someone's food processor). So when K. caught wind of my plans and asked me to make her another mushroom lasagne I thought, oh shit. But I cook out of love, out of a need to give pleasure that is both my strength and my weakness, and so I say yes.
Actually, chopping the zucchini is a pain in the ass, too. The recipe specifies a 1/4-inch dice, and how you are supposed to dice a practically cylindrical object is beyond me. What I come up with is mostly 1/4-inch triangles with the occasional accidental cube. I soak dried mushrooms (a medley of wild mushrooms, when I had meant to get porcinis...whoops) in boiling water, drain and chop them. The mushroom liquid is reduced into a dark syrup, while I quarter two pounds of mushrooms (creminis, white buttons, Portabellos) and pulse them in my food processor. The pulse button and I become quite intimate over the weekend.
Doubling a recipe isn't just as easy as making a single batch. It's twice as hard. It isn't two pounds of mushrooms, but rather, four. Instead of cooking the mushrooms in three batches, there are six. There is a battalion of bowls and pots marching up and down my kitchen, shreds of onion skins and sprigs of thyme on my floor, and a light dusting of flour all over everything, including me. But I press on, and very soon I have the first mushroom lasagne in the oven while I put together the spicy sausage one. This recipe comes from Cook's Illustrated and is meant to be whipped up in no time at all on a weeknight, so it comes together very quickly.
Sooner than I thought possible I have two steaming, bubbling pans of lasagne ready to take to E.'s house. I drive over carefully with my precious cargo, and am greeted joyfully at the door. E.'s house is warm and cozy, and she offers me a drink and a snack. But I have another dinner party tomorrow, and I must prepare.